October 3, 2012
CNET News has the latest news on an iPad search app, “MindMeld Voice and Video App Instantly Anticipates Your Needs.” Expect Labs created the new MindMeld app (not the Vulcan mind trick from Star Trek), but it acts in a similar manner. Using only vocal conversation MindMeld provides instant contextual information related to the speakers’ conversation. For instance, if two Star Trek fans were discussing if Kirk or Picard was the better captain, MindMeld would have several windows with data about the captains pop up
MindMeld’s purpose is simple:
“The idea here, Tuttle said, is that MindMeld is at the forefront of the kind of technology that will surround us everywhere in a few years and that will be always on and constantly paying attention in order to serve up information when we want it, or possibly even before we know we want it.”
MindMeld must rely on user input for the time being, but the goal is that during a video call users will not have to type anything into the app. It will provide information based on what users talk about and when they tap the screen looking for information. Expect Labs has the lead here, but vocal software has always presented problems. MindMeld will need to be tested for relevancy and accuracy as well. Machines cannot read minds yet.
Whitney Grace, October 03, 2012
August 25, 2012
Here is where hype and over-the-top marketing collide with reality. Cell Phone Digest reports that “Pew Research Reviews Mobile Phone Problems.” Reporting on a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, the article states:
“Even though mobile technology often simplifies the completion of everyday tasks, cell phone owners can also encounter technical glitches and unwanted intrusions on their phones. In an April 2012 survey, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project assessed the prevalence of four problems that cell owners might face.”
The four problems: dropped calls (72% experienced them), unwanted sales calls (68%), spam texts (69% of texting users), and slow download speeds (77% of those who go online with their phones). The survey found that smartphone users experienced these problems more than those with phones of average intelligence.
The write up notes that, though the study was not structured to measure illegal cell phone marketing, the amounts found imply a lot of that is going around. The article reminds us to look into the National Do Not Call Registry if we wish to reduce the number of marketing calls and texts we receive.
Researchers suspect that our levels of dissatisfaction are the result of technology that has not been able to keep up with our expectations. Could less-than-completely-honest advertising have anything to do with that? Nah, that can’t be it.
Cynthia Murrell, August 25, 2012
August 24, 2012
After floundering around Denali National Park, I had a backlog of stories which Overflight flagged as “must reads.” One, which caught my attention, was “Fewer and Fewer People Want to Know about Computers, Says Google.” I took a look at the write up.
The first thing which hit me was that the article was pegged to Google Trends. If you are not familiar with this service, navigate to Google Trends. Type in your search terms and hit “Search Trends.” Google taps into some of its data to generate a chart which purports to show the number of queries for the terms over the timeline. I ran this query on August 23, 2012, tablet, notebook computer. Google happily displayed:
Despite the lousy Web log graphics, the flat red line represents search for notebook computers. The squiggly blue line shows queries for the word “tablet.” Now there is an issue with disambiguation of “tablet” but no degree in math is needed to see that the squiggly blue line alleged shows more queries for “tablets.” The chart tell a search engine optimization maven that buying the word “tablet” will get more traffic than the phrase “notebook computer.” An SEO expert will also figure out that the cost of the word tablet might be higher than buying the phrase “notebook computer.”
Yum. Information pizza. Filling and really good for your brain.
Now back to the write up and the phrase “Says Google.” Google is not saying anything. A person ran queries and received data. One never knows how comprehensive the data set available to Google Trends is. Furthermore, I am not sure I know how the data sets are generated.
The article reports what I already knew. Each time Dell or Hewlett Packard releases its financial reports, I am reminded that certain mainstay computing products are not selling like hot cakes. HP’s printer ink business was down. Dell’s hardware sales were down. Non Apple tablets are non-starters. Fancy Dan consultants generate massive reports about the shift to mobile devices. On a personal front, at meetings I see more iPads than 15 inch notebook computers. The small form factor netbooks have mostly disappeared from the circles in which I travel.
What about the phrase “Fewer People Want to Know about Computers”? I have worked in various technology centric businesses for more than 50 years. Guess what I learned on my first day at Halliburton Nuclear in 1972? I learned that at a subsidiary with more than 600 nuclear engineers, only a tiny fraction of the professionals wanted to learn about computers.
Flash forward 50 years. Most people don’t want to learn about computers. If you happen to work at a company which is steeped in computer hardware and software, the interest in computing technology is quite high. However, when one asks one of these experts to fix a dead laptop, does that person eagerly volunteer to disassemble your machine, replace a dead hard drive, and reinstall and operating system and applications? My experience is that modern assembly methods make today’s gizmos tough to fix.
I may know how to take apart an iMac, and iPhone, or a Toshiba laptop. But I don’t want to do it, never did. Even a trivial fix such as replacing a VGA port with a bent pin can be an exercise in frustration. I don’t want to go through the drill of locating a disassembly guide, finding my sets of electronics screwdrivers, getting my magnifying gizmo set up, and repairing the system. The components are tiny. I have other work to do. Do you really want to reinstall OSX or Windows on your mother’s PC? So consumerization is here.
The larger issue is, “What does this mean about understanding information access?”l
With folks just wanting a tablet or mobile phone to work, I believe that many people will accept what the provider or vendor delivers. With the gap between those who learn zip in high school and college, figuring out that information payloads are shaped will be impossible and possibly irrelevant any way. For those lucky dogs who are in the technology flow, I understand the opportunity to take advantage of those operating at a lower clock speed, with less RAM, and a flawed storage device.
Once I thought that a search should return objective, high value results. I have learned that search systems have to allow system administrators to boost certain content. The app revolution generates money when the app delivers an experience which is similar to a microwaved pizza. Some calories, lots of fat, and quickly and easy to cook.
I don’t need a Google Trend chart to make clear the business opportunities consumerization presents.
Stephen E Arnold, August 24, 2012
Sponsored by Augmentext
July 10, 2012
Modern society thrives on knowing what goes on in the world, but often time’s viewer opinions differ from those of a journalist. Both cable and the internet are utilized to watch daily news, and now there is place to get your own point across. According to Nieman Lab’s article “Scoople: Gaming the news to get your data” is a polling company that operates as a game while utilizing actual news. Users receive points as a reward for participating.
Scoople uses a “content engine” to farm sources which produce a single story, and:
“The machine tracks some 200 RSS feeds, but a story is often a partial mash-up of just two articles, which Scoople cites with links to the originals.”
“Scoople publishes content by category in channels like Celebrity, Film, Politics, Tech, World, Gaming, and so on. Part-time editorial staffers come up with questions that go with each story.”
“Scoople created a social experience around media content…They’re not building a fantasy farm. It’s very well-grounded in daily news, daily events that they already think about.”
Involving the public by using a poll process will initiate interest and generate more public responses. The social sharing of opinions to generate results is a unique shift in the way normal news works. Scoople is offering a fresh approach to breaking news and intelligence in a game like atmosphere.
Jennifer Shockley, July 10, 2012
June 17, 2012
Facebook has seen quite a bit of limelight this month. Their IPO has garnered much media attention. Perhaps this is why their newest feature had a quiet introduction. “Facebook Tweaks Notifications to Help You Silence Annoying Applications, Updates” describes the new controls users have over the flow of updates into the notification box.
When a user sees a new notification, a small “X” icon also appears in the right hand corner of the notification. After they delete the newest notification from that application they will have the chance to click “Turn Off” to stop all notifications for that particular application, event or comment thread.
According to the article:
“This is especially helpful for gaming applications like Farmville that spam updates into the notification feed or updates from events that you didn’t attend, but neglected to decline the invitation. Users that don’t want to contribute to a long string of comments can avoid getting updates about new additions to the conversation. Users that spam groups with pointless updates can be silenced immediately.”
This addition to Facebook settings embedded into the homepage is sure to gain positive comments. In light of Facebook’s IPO especially, perhaps all the company needs is a little lipstick.
Megan Feil, June 17, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
June 8, 2012
How does one make a TV program findable to a couch potato? Motorola has a solution, as Venture Beat informs us in “Motorola’s DreamGallery Aims to Eliminate Crappy TV User Interfaces.” Writer Tom Cheredar observes that unwieldy UI’s are plaguing today’s televisions, and Motorola is doing something about it. The article reports:
“At The Cable Show industry event in Boston today, the company showed off its DreamGallery media concept that’s powered by Motorola’s Medios cloud service. Essentially, it’s a pretty way to navigate and share stuff on your television set in a way that currently isn’t possible — assuming that all future televisions will have internet connectivity.
“DreamGallery focuses on making the television a cross-platform media center that works between computers/web browser, tablets, and smartphones. It will also serve to aggregate all the content from cable TV services, the internet, and Video-on-demand services (like Netflix), into a single location.”
So, Motorola knows how to improve the TV UI. Will Google know better? After all, it just acquired Motorola, but it already has Google TV in place (which, not surprisingly, emphases YouTube). Perhaps the company will combine the best from both concepts. We can hope, can’t we?
Cynthia Murrell, June 8, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
May 30, 2012
The SLI Systems blog recently reported on a new window function for retail websites in the article, “Quick View Windows Evolve to Satisfy Curious Shoppers.”
According to the article, Quick View window is still a rare feature on many online retail sites, however it is gaining popularity. The way it works is Quick View buttons will appear once a shopper hovers over an item on search or category pages. They hover over product images on search or category pages. When they click, a pop-up windows appears that displays more details about that product.
The article states:
“The Quick View window is designed to improve the online shopping experience by making it faster for customers to shop. Anything to reduce the number of clicks to get an item into the cart is generally a good thing. If a Quick View window can satisfy a curious shopper, it will save them a full page load of the product detail page and the click of a back button and another page load to return to their search results. This can save a bunch of time and actually foster more curiosity in customers.”
Some shoppers find the process to be quite cumbersome, since they have to hover over a product for the button to appear, but retailers have tried a variety of different solutions to aid these issues. One solution has been to place the Quick View button below the product image so that it is always visible.
Regardless of the different approaches, adding a quick view button to any online retail website is bound to ensure more informed customers and higher sales.
Jasmine Ashton, May 30, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
May 25, 2012
Hmm, does this mean AWS is not free? Popular Q&A site Quora just raised a hefty chunk of change, but Business Insider reveals that “A Lot of Quora’s $50 Million Is Going Straight to Amazon.” The write up explains:
“Amazon.com, besides its vast online store, also rents out computing power to startups like Quora, so they don’t have to buy servers and lease space in data centers themselves. The division is called Amazon Web Services, and one of its key offerings is the Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2.
“‘We project a large portion of this money to go to EC2 and other AWS bills,’” wrote D’Angelo. “‘It might be replaced by whatever the most appropriate place for us to run our infrastructure is in the future but as of today it’s looking like EC2.’”
I know I’m unfamiliar with the details, but on the surface it doesn’t sound like that deal lives up to AWS’ “low cost” promise. Perhaps Quora should shop around a bit more? Just a thought.
Amazon won’t be getting all of Quora’s cash, though. The company will soon be hiring, and will also save some for a rainy day. This team seems quite thrifty—they still have about half of their first financing round socked away. Very prudent.
Quora began work on their product in 2009, and launched their beta in early 2010. Their innovative system curates content on personal home pages so that users can easily find what is relevant to them—information from those who share their interests, or those with experience in the subject at hand. Last year, the company received the TechCrunch Award for Best New Startup or Product of 2010.
Cynthia Murrell, May 25, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot
May 17, 2012
The idea for this blog began when I worked through selected Ramanathan Guha patent documents. I have analyzed these in my 2007 Google Version 2. If you are not familiar with them, you may want to take a moment, download these items, and read the “background” and “claims” sections of each. Here are several filings I found interesting:
- US2007 003 8600
- US2007 003 8601
- US2007 003 8603
- US2007 003 8614
- US2007 003 8616
The utility of Dr. Guha’s invention is roughly similar to the type of question answering supported by WolframAlpha. However, there are a number of significant differences. I have explored these in the chapter in The Google Legacy “Google and the Programmable Search Engine.”
I read with interest the different explanations of Google’s most recent enhancement to its search results page. I am not too eager to highlight “Introducing the Knowledge Graph: Things, Not Strings” because it introduces terminology which is more poetic and metaphorical than descriptive. Nevertheless, you will want to take a look at how Google explains its “new” approach. Keep in mind that some of the functions appear in patent documents and technical papers which date from 2006 or earlier. The question this begs is, “Why the delay?” Is the roll out strategic in that it will have an impact on Facebook at a critical point in the company’s timeline or is it evidence that Google experiences “big company friction” when it attempts to move from demonstration to production implementation of a mash up variant.
In the various analyses by experts, “real” journalists, and folks who are fascinated with how Google search is evolving, I am concerned that some experts describe the additional content as “junk” and others view the new approach as “firing back at Bing.”
You must reach your own conclusion. However, I want to capture my observations before they slip from my increasingly frail short term memory.
First, Google operates its own way and in a “Google bubble.” Because the engineers and managers are quite intelligent, clever actions and economy are highly prized. Therefore, the roll out of the new interface tackles several issues at one time. I think of the new interface and its timing as a Google multiple war head weapon. The interface takes a swipe at Facebook, Bing, and Wolfram Alpha. And it captures linkage, wordage, and puffage from the experts, pundits, and wizards. So far, all good for Google.
A MIRV deployment. A single delivery method releases a number of explosive payloads. One or more may hit a target.
Second, the action reveals that Google * had * fallen behind in relevancy, inclusion of new content types, and generating outputs which match the “I have no time or patience for research” user community. If someone types Lady Gaga, the new interface delivers Lady Gaga by golly. Even the most attention deprived Web or mobile user can find information about Lady Gage, click, explore, and surf within a Guha walled garden. The new approach, in my view, delivers more time on Google outputs and increases the number of opportunities to display ads. Google needs to pump those ads for many reasons, not the least of which is maintaining revenue growth in the harsh reality of rising costs.
Third, the approach allows Google to weave in or at least make a case to advertisers that it is getting on its social pony, collecting more fine grained user data, and offering a “better search experience.” The sale pitch side of the new interface is part of Google’s effort to win and retain advertisers. I have to remind myself that some advertisers are starting to realize that “old fashioned” advertising still works for some products and concepts; for example, space advertising in certain publications, direct mail, and causing mostly anonymous Web surfers to visit a Web site and spit out a request for more information or, better yet, buy something.
The new interfaces, however, are dense. I point out in the Information Today column which runs next month that the density is a throw back to the portal approaches of the mid 1990s. There are three columns, dozens of links, and many things with which to entice the clueless user.
In short, we are now in the midst of the portalization of search. When I look for information, I want a list of relevant documents. I want to access those documents, read them, and in some cases, summarize or extract factoids from them. I do not want answers generated by someone else, even if that someone is tapping in the formidable intelligence of Ramanathan Guha.
So Google has gone beyond search. The problem is that I don’t want to go there via the Google, Bing, or any other intermediary’s intellectual training wheels. I want to read, think, decide, and formulate my view. In short, I like the dirty, painful research process.
Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2012
Sponsored by Polyspot
May 8, 2012
Wil Wheaton took to his blog to declare, “Google is Making a Huge and Annoying Mistake.” Wheaton insists:
“Yesterday, I tried to like a video on YouTube. I wasn’t signed in to my Google Plus account, and this is what I saw: Where the thumbs up and thumbs down used to be, there is now a big G+ Like button. When you go anywhere near it, you get a little popup that tells you to ‘upgrade to Google plus’ for some reason that I don’t remember, because the instant I saw it, I made a rageface.”
He then went on to Tumble a profanity-laced missive to Google expressing his righteous rage. Apparently, he products a show whose existence depends on the capture of enough YouTube up votes. I suppose the problem with a newfangled business model is the rapid change that tends to accompany new fangles.
The thing is, I can’t reproduce Wheaton’s problem. I still get the thumbs up and down buttons, and nary a Google+ button in sight. (Even in Chrome, where I’m signed into iGoogle.) The only difference I see is that I am not a Google+ subscriber. But then, he says he’s getting a “upgrade to Google+” message, and wasn’t signed into his account anyway. I don’t question his experience, he has a screenshot after all, it’s just . . . odd.
He should try rebooting.
Cynthia Murrell, May 8, 2012
Sponsored by PolySpot